Our holiday packing list
Inflatable bed sides
Inflatable pool seat
Concentrated calorie milk
Fairy liquid – to wash bottle and blender
Laundry wash – to wash dirty bibs
Nappies / Swim nappies
Not your average packing list for a holiday in the sun but then we aren’t exactly an average family. Last time we attempted a sun holiday Lyla was 18 months old and we were still living in Melbourne. She developed a hellish UTI on the journey and we ended up seeing more of Cairns hospital than we did of Palm Cove. To top it all off the sunshine we had been promised from Far North Queensland lasted as long as our hospital visit and the rest of the time it was rainy and windy, even the Palm Cove locals were apologising for the weather! As a side note – Cairns hospital has to win the prize for the BEST view from a hospital in the entire world. Since then we’ve moved countries, moved into a new house and have been settling into our new life so there hasn’t been much time for holidays aside from travelling to N.Ireland for therapy and to see family. 18 months of Scotland’s finest weather has led to a serious need of some Vitamin D so we jumped in and started thinking about what a family holiday would look like.
We booked in special assistance with Jet2 and organised a wheelchair transfer from the airport to our hotel instead of attempting the coach transfer with Lyla. Both kids are great travellers now so the airport and the flight were nothing new. Travelling with Lyla comes with some great perks, we get to skip the security queues and the passport control queues, we get on the plane first and Blair usually gets to see into the cockpit while we are waiting for the ambulift to come take us off the plane. Another mum I know refers to these as ‘Palsy Perks’, which I love. You gotta take the good with the bad and enjoy the little things that make life so much easier.
Of course we had our beloved GoTo seat which makes it possible for Lyla to sit on the plane. Without this I’m not sure how we would travel at all. She can’t sit on our knees as its not safe and she can’t sit unaided so without us holding her up, not very practical, we just wouldn’t be able to fly.
The only thing that was a pain in the arse was feeding Lyla. Lyla has difficulty controlling and coordinate her tongue and her mouth muscles to chew so she can only eat very soft or pureed food. We brought a little blender with us however we weren’t allowed to take food out of the restaurant so after trying to explain pureed food in my incredibly limited Spanish to the head water I had to get my dad to translate please puree this for me so I could show them the text. This got the message across and we managed for a week to keep Lyla fed. She was overwhelmed by the restaurant particularly in the morning so mealtimes were a bit of a juggling act between Kris and I keeping her happy, feeding her and feeding ourselves. The staff were great at finding tables that accommodated Lyla’s wheelchair once they realised it was a wheelchair and not a buggy that could be left at the door.
The next important thing after eating was sleeping. At home Lyla has a hi-lo bed with sides so she doesn’t fall out but these aren’t something that hotels generally provide nor do they provide toddler bed sides. After some online investigation we bought inflatable bed sides which packed up small and did the job although as she gets bigger these aren’t going to be suitable I’ve found some inflatable solutions for bigger kids and adults too.
Not having a bath in the hotel room meant we had to bring Lyla’s Splashy bath seat so she could sit in it under the shower to have her hair washed. It did the job perfectly and without it we would have had to hold her in the shower which is hard, dangerous and requires two of us, one to hold and one to wash.
Travelling with Lyla’s wheelchair stroller is always a bit of a worry. We take it all the way to the plane door with us using the ambulift, then I carry her to her seat and the special assistance team give it to the baggage handlers to load into the hold. Then when we land I prompt the cabin crew to check with ground staff that they will either bring her chair up on the ambulift or it will be on the tarmac at the bottom of the ambulift. We have been lucky so far and there has never been any damage done to it.
This has worked every single time we have flown apart from when we landed in Manchester Airport this time round to find, despite my asking cabin crew to check, her chair being taken to the baggage hall. They had assumed that Lyla could just sit in an adult sized wheelchair unsupported with no straps etc. I ended up sitting in a wheelchair holding her while a member of the special assistance team pushed us and attempted to push another man in his wheelchair at the same time, through the arse end of the airport, through doors which he had to open manually and then Kris had to hold open so we could all get through. I have no idea what would have happened if I had been travelling alone with Lyla.
For the third largest airport in the UK, Manchester’s landing procedures for passengers requiring special assistance were abysmal and it means that I would avoid travelling through Manchester Airport again. Funny given that a couple of weeks ago I wrote emails to Glasgow International Airport, Belfast International Airport and EasyJet to tell them how awesome our frequent experiences on travelling by air with them have been over the past 18 months. Manchester Airport could learn a lot.
I’m saving the best bits of the holiday for another post with less words and more photos. Despite the challenges I’m glad we keep travelling with Lyla. The challenges keep changing each time we do and the things like toileting and showering are only going to get harder to overcome but there are so many great resources out there like Have Wheelchair Will Travel and Facebook groups where people share their tips and accessible accommodation experiences that I know we’ll figure it all out.